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September 2009
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There is no such thing as a perfect elevator pitch. What works for one type of investor may not work for another. An economic downturn, when capital sources are limited, is a good time to take a look at your approach and apply these enhancements.

Choose your words carefully. You may only have 30 seconds to make an impression. Saying “I’ve started a business to sell productivity software to technology companies, and the business is doing well” might be a turnoff. Try this: “I’ve been working to create proprietary software that helps tech companies improve productivity, and the company is scaling rapidly.” Using words like “proprietary” and “scale” help the pitch reflect the desires of investors.

Practice your pitch with those not in the know. Even with some edited phrasing, your pitch may still need refinement-and in fact, too much wordsmithing can make you sound like a commercial with buzzwords and industry jargon. Test your pitch with friends, relatives and fellow entrepreneurs who know nothing about your industry. Be sure to ask for honest feedback.

Focus on the follow-up The goal of your elevator pitch is to stimulate enough interest for a follow-up meeting, but you should also try to determine the focus of the investor. One way to do this is to end your pitch with a question. Try “Do you have any investments that are thriving during the downturn?” rather than “Does my business sound like a good fit for your firm?” Even humble investors cannot resist the temptation to tell war stories about their favorite deals. This can be an ideal opening to suggest a follow-up meeting or, at the very least, suggest an exchange of business cards.

Until you have a proper discussion, you won’t really know if the investor is a good fit or can refer you to a colleague who would be a good fit for your business. Still, a strong and well-executed elevator pitch is often the first step toward finding that out.

Asheesh Advani founded CircleLending, which was acquired by the Virgin Group, and subsequently founded Virgin Money USA. He is the author of Investors in Your Backyard.

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